White Plume Mountain is a 13-page dungeon crawl adventure for a group of level 8 characters. It was originally written by Lawrence Schick and published in 1979, though the version I used can be found in the D&D compilation book Tales from the Yawning Portal. Ranked the 9th greatest Dungeons and Dragons adventure of all time by 2004’s Dungeon magazine, it is a game that requires brute force and creative solutions in order to find three very cool sentient weapons.
A DM’s Perspective
As a DM, I strongly prefer working from pre-existing material, and I was excited to run a tried-and-true dungeon from Tales of the Yawning Portal. This adventure is not a one-shot (it took my group 4 sessions at 3 hours per session), but it is contained enough to be a nice breather in between campaigns or as a single adventure if you don’t want to commit to more, which I didn’t!
I loved how creative the dungeon is; it is full of riddles, puzzles, and traps to navigate. It really brought out the creativity in my players, and they used their skills and spells in unique ways to survive. Sometimes TOO unique! They refused to enter the Room of Glass Globes (#4) and instead blasted all of the orbs from outside, releasing three shadows, an air elemental, and a gray ooze all at once! Since they had already found Wave, one character created a Cube of Force around the group the size of the corridor, which they used to body slam the monsters into submission. It was not how I expected the encounter to run at all, but it was amazingly creative and fun!
The one significant piece that is missing is a final fight with the wizard Keraptis. My players made it clear early on that they were interested in defeating him, so I made some alterations to the campaign to make that happen. I gave Sir Bluto a key that could be used to unlock the way to his santcum from the Pool and Drain (#9). I threw together a random dungeon chamber in which they could fight a lich (though I didn’t use its level 7-9 spells so that they had a hope of defeating him).
My players were very invested in socializing with any characters they met along the way, so I made all humanoids in the dungeon former treasure seekers who had been forced to guard the weapons they once sought. Some were tricked out of their treasures (they gave the vampire Ctenmiir a footrub so good that he didn’t realize they stole Whelm from him), others were fought, and others were invited to join the cause. In particular, they really latched onto the flesh golem in the Numbered Golems room (#5). They named him Dusty, and a really sweet romance developed between his strong silent arms and one of the players! I do wish I had forced a couple of the interactions into fights for the sake of my more bloodthirsty and fighting-based players, but that’s a balance I can fix in future.
What I Would Do Differently
I wish I had done more preparation for the three sentient weapons that characters are meant to find throughout the dungeon. I could have given them much more depth, almost to the point of NPCs, if I had invested more time in preparing them. Because this was a one-shot separate from an overarching campaign, I would have made them more useful for this dungeon in particular so that the party could enjoy the weapons once they had them. One character (Adelin) got Blackrazor just in time to fight the lich…which is undead and therefore doesn’t work! On the fly, I had Blackrazor tell Adelin that it would attack the lich and deal appropriate damage only if he agreed to sacrifice half of his hit points. The player got very into this, stabbing himself with the sword to gain further advantages. It was a fun character moment, and I very much wish I had thought of similar things for Wave and Whelm!
Let’s Hear from the Players!
Rachel AKA Kreeth the Aarakocra Fighter
This was the first time I had played a higher level, purely martial character. I chose this class partially out of curiosity and partly to round out the party; it was possibly not the best choice since I didn’t have a lot of ways to really help out the party. I went with a dex-based fighter, so I wasn’t able to heft things out of the way or force sticky levers, and because we socialed our way out of most combat encounters, I think I only used my +9 attack once or twice.
I was able to utilize the features from my race much more effectively than my class. I went with an aarakocra, so being able to fly was great (if a little limited) and getting into the bird mannerisms made it fun to roleplay. I found myself in a support role – when someone would trigger a trap or fail a dex check, I was able to swoop in and save them which was nice.
I got the magical weapon Wave, but unfortunately, this did not gel well with my dex build (it did not return to your hand if thrown, unlike Whelm). However, its cube of force feature did allow me a brief glimpse into the magic user’s view of the dungeon, but I quickly burned through all the charges and was back to more passive play.
Overall I think this is a good dungeon. It was certainly challenging for our group and felt deadly! The only thing I would change is my character choice.
Anne AKA Cinder the Fire Genasi Artificer (armorer specialty)
This dungeon has a mix of combat and puzzles. I’d recommend it for people who are less interested in kicking down the door and murder hoboing as much as collaborative, varied paced campaigns. It’s not a hex crawl and there isn’t the frustration of just not being able to figure out which way to go to progress the session. There are enough potentially deadly encounters to keep it interesting.
The one big flaw with having the goal being to recover magic weapons is that you might have a group that can’t make use of them. I think the DM either needs to communicate this during character creation or be willing to hand wave this aspect of the mechanics. Or enjoy giving your players a bunch of fun loot that they can’t use!
Allonté AKA The Professor the Human Bard
I loved my delve into the be-trapped abyss called White Plume Mountain! The beautiful thing about any adventure is that it is not just the setting, mechanics, or build, but it’s the table that makes it wondrous. I feel as if I hit the jackpot in this one-shot!
DM Tricia, word of the mountain, was everything I wanted in a DM and didn’t know it. There was so much freedom to play in ways that were offbeat, fun, guilt-free, and rewarded us for ingenuity! Going in to this, we were warned this would be a no-holds-barred slog, and the impetus was to explore traps as a DM. I have fun into too many folk who would trigger the trap regardless of the creative ways one could maneuver. Initially I was mildly apprehensive, but that feeling quickly dissolved. This challenge, much to the credit of our DM, became a great experience. My favorite trap-dodging was Mold Earthing monkey bars across the roof while being caressed ‘n’ carried by a flesh golem! Just as importantly, there was also safety to purposefully fail for fun! Adalin, in this same session, explored this trap we were dodging. This resulted in having the entire team enjoy and work together saving them from a very, shall we say, tetanus-y fate. Moreover, I was impressed by how often resolving something in a non-combat way through role-play (not just dice numbers) was encouraged throughout. Let this be a lesson from the Professor to you, foot rubs are the Holy Grail and may one day save your life!
Hear from Professor Mythalwulf about the adventure:
I also cannot forget my other delver-in-arms friends, Cinder and Kreeth! All the players at this table made a this a beautiful experience. From the beginning, Cinder brought the realism with the reactions to the environment, really selling me this mini-world, which made me want to role-play more and get more reactions out of them, even if they were love-jabs. I also nominate them for the best Mold-Earth-Bridge Inspector of the Year. Kreeth also gave really great development throughout, whether it be inter party, inner-self, or against opposition; this enthusiastic incorporation made me, as a player, wait on bated breath for what they would do or how I could enhance them or bring more out of them. Kreeth, you will always be the best bird-voicebox-using-in-a-bear-body-sea-worshiping-being in my book. For my last award, I also need to commend Adalin, from one play to another, on playing chaotic in all the right ways: respecting everyone’s autonomy, never inflicting unjust harm in the name of random, and always playing the balance of trying to bring control to the chaos.
I think the moniker of a good adventure, group, or in this case one-shot, is how it leaves you feeling. This left me wanting more in all the best ways! White Plume Mountain (via our group) left me wanting to explore all the stories that brought us here and all the stories that will take place after! As a fledgling DM, I think this is the perfect adventure both if you are not sure how to make a whole campaign-world OR if you want to add some dungeon-spice to your existing worlds.